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Are You A Young Changemaker? Become A Bengal Clean Air Champion Here

“We are the last generation that can end climate change. We can and we will.”

Remember Greta Thunberg, who single handedly took over the world by raising her voice at the United Nations on climate injustice? Thunberg began a global movement by skipping school — starting in August 2018, she spent her days camped out in front of the Swedish Parliament holding a placard that said “School Strike for Climate Change”.

With the rising levels of pollution in the city turning the tide against a sustainable living in our nation’s metro-cities, it is becoming increasingly imperative to take immediate emergency measures. As voices against clean air and climate justice intensify across the globe, it is the young and the children who are taking over the world as our next generation climate change influencers. Closer home, our Indian states are no exception. We are seeing more of our young and children driving action to bring massive environmental changes. Take for instance, Licipriya Kangujam of India; the nine-year-old who boldly addressed the United Nations Climate Conference, 2019.

In a unique opportunity to amplify young voices across the State, the Bengal Clean Air Network (Bengal-CAN), has launched the Bengal Clean Air Champion Cohort, which will be organised for a period of 3-6 months (approximately). The programme has been launched under the aegis of SwitchON Foundation in partnership with Goldman Sachs, WWF, Our Kids Climate, Greenpeace and the Earth Day Network.

The programme will provide an opportunity to clean air champions who are under 30 years of age and committed to devoting at least 10 hours in a month with the appropriate skills to manage projects related to climate change and environment, and scale their idea into reality. The programme aims to firstly train the clean air champions within the state on leadership, sector-specific training, effective development communication and technological innovations in mitigating the air pollution problem in the state and secondly, self-initiated projects will give a boost to young minds to come up with innovative ways of driving grassroots change. 

Hale And Hearty Youngsters In Kolkata Succumbing To Stroke, COPD And Asthma 

Let’s dig some hard facts now. A study carried out by Lancet and ICMR has recently revealed that deaths due to air pollution in West Bengal in the year 2019 were about 13 times more than the deaths due to Covid-19 this year. The state has seen about 9,439 deaths due to Covid-19 in 2020 so far as against 1,22,833 deaths attributable to pollution in 2019. Additionally, a study by IIT-Kanpur has revealed that people of Kolkata in the age 25 to 50 years were the most vulnerable to ischemic stroke despite having healthy metabolism.

Furthermore, a survey of 20 doctors across Bengal carried out by Bengal Clean Air Network (BengalCAN) — a network of youths, doctors and experts concerned about the air quality in the State — revealed that about 95% of the doctors perceived the state’s current air pollution crisis as a health emergency. The survey revealed among high risk populations, new and young children are about 50-60% more likely to be affected by rising air pollution levels, among others. This calls for the need to rethink our current mitigation measures and raise the question — what kind of a planet are we leaving behind for our children? 

The youth of this generation might be too young to understand the nitty-gritties of climate change, but they sure are the real drivers of change, the only ones seeing the highest impact of air pollution. The impact is already real and is only going to get worse, unless we act now. Whether it is organising a climate strike or cleaning up a neighbourhood lake, youth around the world are increasingly becoming aware of the drastic consequences of climate change and raising their voices to protect their futures. 

Engaging Young Energies In Local Climate Action — A Way Forward

Every year, pollution levels in Kolkata and cities across Bengal tips the ‘very poor’ and even the ‘severe’ air quality category through winter. A study carried out by Delhi-based think tank CSE uncovered that in Kolkata, the weekly average level of PM2.5 jumped 13 times from the cleanest week of August to the most polluted week of December. In Howrah, it rose 11 times. A study titled State of Bengal Air 2020, carried out by Bengal-CAN, further revealed that between November 2019-February 2020, all the seven non attainment cities in Bengal had almost 91% of the days having ambient air quality between poor to severe as against 87% of that of Delhi. 

Being one of a kind citizen-driven environment programme, the Clean Air Cohort builds a platform to drive grassroots change and action towards curbing pollution emissions in the State and spread awareness among the young stakeholders in the State by promoting sustainable living as a way of life in our cities. 

Wake up Kolkata! Doctors across the State have already declared the current air pollution status in Bengal a health emergency. Be it managing a kitchen garden in your balcony or curbing single-use plastic, your idea will amplify lakhs of youth voices in the State. We are in the midst of a catastrophe and your voice counts in advocating the rights of our nation’s future for a cleaner, greener and breathable planet.  

For more information about the programme, click here.

To register yourself, click here.

Last date to register: January 8, 2021

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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